The controversy over new religions is a complex social issue that has engendered an emotional and often mean-spirited debate. At the center of this debate is a wide variety of diverse groups that often have little in common. Most embrace belief systems at odds with mainstream religion, though some are quite orthodox. Also, while they are usually relatively small, new organizations, almost always have roots in older, larger traditions. The one trait these groups share is that they have been controversial at one point or another in their existence. Decades of social conflict have left their impress on the term “cult,” which, to the general public, indicates a religious group that is false, dangerous, or otherwise bad.